The Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network partnered with the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water partnership to implement the Water Governance Support programme (WGSP II). The key objective of the programme was to support strengthen/establish and harmonize WASH clubs (by WASH CSOs) and other existing coordination mechanisms at the County and National Government. The overall goal of the project is to improve water governance and support for grass root organisations (WRUAs and CWPs) to enhance their water resources management mandate as stipulated in the Water Act 2016.
The WGSP II programme was commissioned to identify how WRUAs can and do enhance conservation, management, equitable allocation and protection of water resources; the challenges they face, opportunities for enhancing their effectiveness, their role in society, who their stakeholders are and whom they would like to partner with. It further sought to profile the critical role WRUAs play in mediating between national and county authorities with end-users while promoting the sustainable management of water resources, especially in the water-scarce Ewaso Ng’iro North Basin. The review is further positioned to inform county and national level actors on how to enhance their impact and improve water security by collaborating meaningfully with WRUAs.
The reviews adopted a qualitative methodology and used focus group discussions among community groups’ representatives, WRUAs, CFAs and community members. Data collection was carried out in the Ewaso Nyiro North Basin in various sub-catchments involving 15 WRUAs: Likii, Ngusishi, Narumoru, Ontulili, Timau, Moyok, Isiolo, Ngare Ndare, Ngare Nyting, Ngobit, Nyahururu, Liliaba, Mutara, Ewaso Narok and Loisukut. MKEWP organised a validation meeting on 8th November 2022 calling stakeholders from the 15 WRUAs, CSOs and County governments to review the reports from the Focus group discussions and input.
Unfortunately, despite explicit recognition of the WRUAs in the Water Act, 2016, the intended positive impacts have yet to materialise. This could be partly attributable to stalled implementation of the water resources components in the Act, particularly on the institutional framework.
In this review, the main challenges WRUAs face have been classified in terms of the following:
- WRM financing
- Collaboration and coordination
- Institutional arrangements
- Capacity gaps – both technical and financial
- Citizen engagement
- Information and data availability and reliability
Key findings from the review show limited funding, donor dependency, inadequate meaningful engagement, limited capacity and poor collaboration and coordination as the main challenges facing WRUAs. Since the onset of devolution, there have been frequent disconnects between the county government, national agencies and WRUAs- resulting in slow response to issues requiring coordination and collaboration between the entities, especially with enforcement of laws and regulations around natural resources and environmental conservation, including soil and water conservation, and forestry. These, coupled with competing interests within County governments, have curtailed the work of WRUAs.
Despite the various constraints, the reviews also identified opportunities for partnership and collaboration to solve the challenges stated above. The review further outlines policy and practice-level approaches to strengthening and expanding the space of WRUAs to facilitate the execution of their mandate. Below is a summary of solutions/recommendations for the challenges WRUAs are facing:
- Collaborative enforcement of laws between the WRUAs, county governments and national agencies.
- Prioritisation and budgeting of WRUA activities leading to soil and water conservation in County planning through the CIDPs, Annual Work plans and development of County Policies and regulations.
- Regular Water Testing and Water Flow Monitoring to develop information that will inform decision-making on water-use and conservation.
- Knowledge and information sharing among WRUAs, CSOs and Government entities at the county and national levels.
- Building the capacity of WRUAs